Aim For Small Wins

Over the course of four months, researchers at Harvard conducted a study of over 200 employees at seven different companies. The study required participants to do one simple thing each day – respond to a survey at the end of their workday. The survey asked about the participants’ mood, motivation level and what they did at work that day. The study resulted in over 12,000 survey responses in total, which were then analysed by the researchers.

One of the most interesting when looking at participants’ “best day” they found that the most common factor was making progress toward a goal

According to the head researcher, Professor Teresa Amabile, the type of progress that results in high motivation, engagement and positive feelings doesn’t need to be earth shattering. In fact, it often isn’t. “They don’t have to be big breakthroughs or huge successes… small wins can lead people to feel terrific,” she stated.

But we all set big goals, looking for big wins.

Lose 10 kg in a week.

Go on holidays to our dream destination.

Run a marathon.

Have 10 million Ringgit in our retirement fund.

These are admirable goals. But it can be daunting.

If you have never ran in your life, to suddenly being inspired and deciding to run the Kuala Lumpur Marathon is not a good idea. It is better to start with just running for 5 minutes a day.

Start small, just by completing the 5 minutes run, you have registered a win in your mind.

Small wins compound over time.

Suddenly big and lofty goals seem achievable.

Josh Grisham books have sold more than 300 million copies. His advice to aspiring writers“Write a page every day. Do that for two years and you’ll have a novel that’s long enough. Nothing will happen until you are producing at least one page per day.”

Jerry Seinfeld in one of the most famous comedians of all time. His advice to aspiring comedians“The way to be a better comic is to create better jokes. The way to create better jokes is to write every day.”

The same principle can be used to build your retirement fund. You don’t have to start with a big sum. Start investing with RM 50 or RM 10. This small amount will accumulate and give you a sense of accomplishment.

Small wins help you feel like you’re accomplishing something.  If we focus too much on the bigger goals, we’ll feel like we will never get there.  That’s why smaller wins are so important.  They give us the motivation to keep on going where it snowballs into the development of the bigger goals.

Let’s take another financial goal most people have. To get out of debt.

Say you have accumulated RM 20k in your credit card debt. And you think there is no way you can finish paying this in a year. Rather than being daunted and decide that you just going to pay the minimum every month until you get your imaginary big lucky break, you need to go small.

First, stop charging your credit card.

Then start paying at least 10% more than the minimum payment. The more the better.

Try increasing by 1% more than the previous payment.

Small but consistent progress compounds over time.

Soon enough what seemed impossible is now achievable.

 A RM 1 million accumulation goal for a young investor with a 40-year time horizon can be broken down into saving RM 300/month and investing for an 8% return. A RM 100K college savings goal in 18 years is about RM 220/month at the same return assumption.

Go small and win.

Small wins can have a disproportionate amount of power and influence beyond the achievement they represent.